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Empowering the Macedonian Community to drive policy reform in Australia

By Ordan Andreevski - posted Wednesday, 20 April 2011

For decades, the Australian Macedonian community, through its peak organisations and activists, has worked to improve its status in Australian society and to strengthen the bilateral relations between Australia and Macedonia. Despite this, there is a large gap between what the community expects and what it has received from the federal government in terms of policy reform and funding for high impact projects.

In order to close the gap between community expectations and political and policy experience, the Australian Macedonian community has to increase the pressure on the federal government and parliament to implement social, political and foreign policy reform in support of Australia's national interest. This is easier said than done.

Transformational change will not happen just because some federal or state government policies that impact on the Macedonian community and on the bilateral relationship with Macedonia are not delivering the desired outcomes. Vested interest groups within and outside of the Australian Government and Parliament have worked and still continue to work hard to prevent the Macedonian community's policy reform agenda from succeeding.


A number of interconnected factors have contributed to this situation. Overall, the Australian Macedonian community has lacked an institutional framework to develop a coherent strategy for change.

The Australian Macedonian community has never had a clearly articulated and documented political and policy reform agenda. There has been no Grand Strategy or mechanisms to deliver such a strategy. The Macedonian community councils from across Australia have yet to unite. They do not regularly coordinate their activities, pool funds or determine a joint strategy to influence national, parliamentary and public policy debate in a big way.

The Macedonian community has allowed itself to been taken for granted by the main political parties in Australia. The community has been too soft and ineffective in its criticism of Australian government policy towards Macedonians and Macedonia.

The community has been relatively powerless in the Australian political system. This is evident from the fact that the public policy environment is not always conducive towards the legitimate needs of the Macedonian community.

A further worry is that there is not even one Macedonian elected representative in the federal or state parliaments of Australia. The lack of political power has been driven by many factors including insufficient investment in strategy innovation, campaigns, candidates, organisations, networks and relationships with powerful institutions, political parties and policy makers. As a result, the voice of the Macedonian community has not been heard in national, parliamentary and policy debates or become part of public discourse.

Change has to come from inside out. In other words, external change will come when the community makes internal change of its beliefs, values, attitudes and practices.


We must stop believing that someone else will meet our unmet needs in Australia or in Macedonia. The leadership and drive for reform has to be directed and financed by the community and other relevant stakeholders. The community has to place greater value on the importance of having strong and sustainable institutions and strategic partnerships. Research on the current trends of Macedonian community engagement in traditional community organisations and activities is showing declining membership and reduced involvement.

The community must start to appreciate the importance of philanthropy and volunteering. Efforts must be made to recognize and sustain the efforts of volunteers and volunteer organisations. It has been far too easy to criticize and too hard to deliver better outcomes. Community organisations also have to become more outcomes and customer focused and ready to improve their service to the community. Albert Einstein noted that it is insane to expect change if we continue doing the same things.

On a positive note, the attitudes of the community towards Macedonia and Macedonian identity are very strong. The challenge for Macedonian community organisations and intellectuals is to tap into these positive attitudes through meaningful engagement of all sectors of the community especially the youth. The biggest challenge facing the community is to transform practices from disengagement to engagement with pressing community issues such as education, health, social inclusion, political engagement and foreign policy towards Macedonia and Southeast Europe. Federal MPs, Ministers and policy shapers must be encouraged to put greater effort into making high quality and transparent policies.

The United Macedonian Diaspora supports the efforts of the Australian Macedonian community and its stakeholders to mobilise power and knowledge for internal and external reform for social progress and the common good. Through its outreach and strategic communication activities, it is aiming to inform national, parliamentary and policy debates and accelerate policy innovation. UMD has worked with the Macedonian community councils and with Australian elected representatives on the preparation and delivery of a policy reform agenda under the title 'Roadmap for Advancing Australia Macedonia Relations and Issues'. With greater financial and political support from the community and from the Australian Government, UMD can deliver better policy outcomes for Australia and the diaspora. Proactive public diplomacy and friendship is the way forward.

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About the Author

Ordan Andreevski is Director of Australian Outreach, United Macedonian Diaspora.

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Creative Commons LicenseThis work is licensed under a Creative Commons License.

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